Dan DeChellis

Under Careful Watch the Spoken Words Fly

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This is one of sax player Aaron Ali-Shaik's first recordings credited to his name. Here he performs eight free improvisations with pianist Dan de Chellis. It is a very spirited session, rich in meaningful exchanges and creative playing. de Chellis is first and foremost a jazz musician. Even in the most free context, a jazz vibe lingers on in his fingers. And it happens again on Under Careful Watch the Spoken Words Fly. With the exception of the seventh piece, where he limits himself to isolated notes plucked directly on the strings, he rolls through a free jazz agenda that goes hand in hand with Ali-Shaik's warm, well-rounded sound. Warm and well-rounded are not frequent attributes for players who stick to the high-end of the saxophone family, but Ali-Shaik does put a lot of warmth into his playing, whether he's on alto, soprano, or sopranino sax. His use of extended techniques (from multiphonics to controlled growls) is elegant and gives the music an authentic-sounding sense of urgency. The aforementioned track seven, as uncharacteristic of the session as it may be, provides a highlight: slowly virtuosic, it sets what could have been an arid piece into a delightfully sinister atmosphere. Other strong moments include de Chellis' dramatic piano solo at the beginning of the second piece, and the riveting climax in track four. But more importantly, this album doesn't have a weak number to bring down the appeal of the better pieces. A strong album.